With the expansion of 5G coverage and quality improvement work in progress, Korea’s three mobile telecom companies are suffering from a delay in 5G equipment delivery from Nokia. Originally, Nokia was scheduled to deliver 5G equipment to the three mobile carriers by January but the delivery was delayed until April, and construction of base stations with Nokia equipment has started recently.
Of the three domestic telecom operators, SK Telecom has decided to use Nokia equipment in Gangwon, Jeolla and Jeju provinces, KT in Chungcheong, Jeolla and Jeju provinces and LG U+ in Gyeongsang provinces and the southern part of Gyeonggi Province.
However, all of the three telecom companies are having difficulties in building base stations in these region due to a delay in equipment delivery from Nokia. LG U+ has not been able to set up one single 5G base station in Busan until now. Although KT initially decided to use Nokia equipment in Chungcheong provinces, it was forced to use Samsung Electronics equipment as it could not receive equipment from Nokia in time. In particular, KT reportedly built 65 percent of its base stations in Chungchung provinces with Samsung equipment and used Nokia products for the remaining 35 percent due to their quality problems.
Industry analysts speculate that Nokia failed to deliver 5G equipment to the Korean market in time because it put priority on the European market, unlike Samsung Electronics and Huawei that placed top priority on the Korean market.
The problem is not just the delay in delivery. Experts believe that Nokia 5G equipment is technically vulnerable in terms of data processing capacity, radio interferences and dual connectivity (data transmission by connecting 4G and 5G frequencies) through future software upgrades. The mobile operators found that the performance of Nokia products was lower than those of competitors such as Samsung Electronics, Huawei and Ericsson. As a result, areas where Nokia equipment is installed are scratched off from 5G coverage maps.
"The mobile carriers are reluctant to set up networks using Nokia equipment. At the moment, all three companies are late in building networks and are worrying about interoperability of equipment from other companies," an official of one of the three mobile companies said.